Mainstream Canada, a Norwegian-owned company, is applying for a new 55 hectare salmon farm in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The proposed feedlot would be sited 12 kilometres northeast of Tofino at Plover Point, on Meares Island. Transport Canada has completed its environmental assessment of the application and has approved the new feedlot. Mainstream is currently awaiting approval from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and from the province of BC for the seabed lease. These decisions are expected this month. If approved, the total number of salmon feedlot sites in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve would be 21.
In May, Mainstream reported outbreaks of Infectious Haematopoietic Necrosis virus (IHN) on two of their open net-cage salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound. Both farms were culled, and the diseased fish of marketable age were sent to market. IHN is endemic to wild Pacific fish, and at low concentrations is not deadly to them. However, salmon farms amplify diseases, and much like in a crowded hospital, pathogens that are normally not an issue can become deadly.
Dr. Kristi Miller, Head of the Molecular Genetics section at the Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), found Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv) on 2 other Clayoquot Sound salmon farms late last year. Both of these diseases are highly contagious and can cause mortality in wild and farmed salmon.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) began a two-year coast-wide surveillance program this spring to assess how widespread these diseases are in British Columbia.
A July 2011 internal memo to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada stated that decisions on all new salmon farm applications should be postponed until the recommendations of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon have been made. However, the memo goes on to specifically recommend an exception for the Plover Point application.
Expansion of fish farms in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is strongly opposed by many groups including Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations.